health, Nutrition, wellness

Sodi-yum?

From tortilla chips to popcorn to pretzels, salty snacks are a crowd favorite. And I don’t blame you! Even if you’re a mainly sweets person, a salty snack can just hit the spot. Honestly, If you tell me that you don’t love a salty snack here and there, you’re lying. All that salt that we love so much, it can’t be healthy, right? Well, just like everything else in the health world, there’s good and bad to salt.

The Bad

Excessive sodium in your diet can have numerous health consequences.

• Too much sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder than it needs to, and putting strain on your arteries as well. This added strain puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

• Too much salt can also help lead to dehydration, as it throws off the balance of water and salt in your body (and your blood.)

The Good

You actually need sodium in your body, and in your diet.

• Sodium is important to your nervous system, helping to conduct impulses.

• Sodium is also one of the elements in your body that is in charge of muscle contraction, so too little sodium can affect how your muscles work (and set you up for cramps!)

• Sodium is an important electrolyte and helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body.

Sodium has its place in your body as an electrolyte, and is important to healthy function. However, as a society, we way, way, way overdo the sodium consumption. The bare minimum sodium we need to function is 500mg, which is actually routinely stored in healthy kidneys so you don’t run low. The upper limit of sodium that is recommended to consume in a day is 2300 mg, which is only about a teaspoon of salt, with people with high blood pressure recommended to consume about 1500mg of sodium per day.

Weirdly enough, salt is not our problem when it comes to sodium. Sodium is just an aspect of salt (chemical name sodium chloride), but sodium is in much more than just salt. According to the FDA, the majority of our sodium overconsumption comes from processed and prepackaged foods. This is because sodium is an excellent preservative, extending the shelf life of common foods, as well as a great flavor enhancer (hello, we all love salt). The biggest sodium offenders include foods such as bread, pizza, processed cheeses, processed meats, and then our beloved snacks.

To ensure you aren’t overdoing the sodium, while still being able to enjoy some salt here and there, there are a few steps we can take.

Eat potassium. Potassium helps to counteract the blood pressure raising effects of sodium, so eating foods such as beans, bananas, and tomatoes can help offset the sodium effect.

Prepare your own foods when you can. That way, you are in charge of the sodium amounts going into your foods, rather than something prepackaged with a long shelf life.

Buy fresh foods when you can. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your sodium intake, as these foods are no sodium added, unlike canned or sauced fruits and veggies.

Enjoy low sodium foods. There are plenty of snacks that have lower sodium contents, including no salt chips or no salt pretzels. As well, there are lower sodium versions of sodium rich foods, such as low sodium soups and beans.

Drink your water. To help with fluid balance after a salty indulgence, drink extra water. This helps to retain that balance of fluid and salt in your body, helping to counteract the dehydrating effects of sodium.

So no, sodium is not the best thing you can ingest. However, your body does need sodium tor in properly. As long as you do it with caution and moderation, and your doctor doesn’t tell you otherwise, you can still enjoy a salty snack here and there.

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress

Health Between the Holidays

We did it! We survived Thanksgiving, and we’re now officially in the holiday season. I already made a post about surviving the holidays (read it here), but here’s a new take on the topic. Before we go any further: one day of overindulgence will not ruin your progress. Your body is smart, and knows how to handle extra calories on a single day (and even a few days of overindulgence won’t ruin your hard work. Just don’t let all of your healthy habits go out the window.) I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed my vacation the past few days, and I do mean enjoyed (pretty sure I had pie for breakfast the past three days), but am I giving up for the rest of the year? Absolutely not.

The four-five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas is incredibly tricky, especially when it comes to health and fitness. It’s in these five weeks that most people get the “all or nothing” mentality, feel like they failed, and throw in the towel on their fitness goals. They think “in just a few weeks, the holidays will be over, it’ll be a new year, and I’ll start then.” Now, really think about just how much time that is.

*It takes three weeks to form a new habit, so, in five weeks, you could be well into integrating your second healthy habit. I’ve talked about how a healthy lifestyle is nothing more than a combination of healthy habits implemented into your daily routine, making a healthy lifestyle. Take the next few weeks to get your water intake up and go for a walk a few days a week to make a huge difference in your health and fitness journey success, especially getting a jumpstart on January.

*Sustainable weight loss is between .5-2lbs per week, depending on your current status and goals. But, in five weeks, you could be 2.5-10lbs closer to your ultimate weight loss goal. I know you have that magic number in your mind, that magic weight (we all have it, no shame). Imagine starting in January, with your goals not so out of reach. And, even if you don’t have a goal weight in mind, implementing healthier habits over the unhealthiest of the holidays helps to offset those indulgences as the season goes on.

Five weeks doesn’t initially seem like a significant amount of time, until you list out what you can really accomplish in that timespan. Now, it becomes just another time period in which we can get closer to our goals.

Putting off your health goals until the “time is right” really sets the tone of those goals as well. Unfortunately, the tone those goals now have is that they aren’t a priority, and can be taken over by anything more pressing. This is why you make the resolution to lose the same ten pounds year after year, that goal isn’t a real priority to you. If it was, you would have hit that goal, and not let other priorities push it out of the way. It’s time to stop the resolution cycle! No more dieting for January, let’s get healthy for life! Believe me, I’m not saying to start a restrictive, regimented plan today. Starting a crazy, restrictive diet, especially during the season of holiday parties, will do nothing but set you up for failure. What I’m saying is now is the time to wake up and prioritize your health. Now is the time to write out your goals (and make sure to make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). Now is the time to pick a few steps, that you are confident that you can implement into your lifestyle, to help reach your goals.

I overindulged in the past week. I feel it today, I feel off. I don’t feel guilt for not following my routine on vacation, and I don’t feel like a failure in my goals. Today, I am back on my usual routine. Today, I am prioritizing eating lighter, with more vegetables at each meal, increasing my water intake to my usual levels, and going back to my usual exercise program. I’m not “making up” for anything, or going overboard in anticipation of Christmas, I’m just going back to my habits. I’m taking care of myself today, for life, not for January. Who’s with me?

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress

Surviving the Holidays

Here we are! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! From October to January, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the various December holidays in between, there are parties and celebrations galore. Each celebration may be unique in it’s traditions, but they all share a common characteristics: lots of food and drinks. Before we go any further into this topic: Enjoy the holidays! Do NOT let your diet get in the way of family time or enjoying your time over the holidays. Each holiday (minus Hanukkah and Kwanza) is one single day. Just like one day of eating salads won’t make you skinny, one day of indulgence won’t break your progress. The point of this post is to make you aware of the choices you are making, especially when holiday parties start popping up like zits.

The Food

Halloween has millions of pieces of candy by the bagful, Thanksgiving brings multiple dinners, and the December guys brings work parties, family gatherings, and celebrations out the wazoo. How is someone supposed to stay on track during a time like this? Simple: we do our best. If we just gave up from October-December, then we need to start over in January (holla resolutioners), and then the cycle begins again. Let’s break the cycle. The biggest thing to remember with Holiday food is moderation. Snag an appetizer as it’s passed around the office party, snack on a fun size candy bar from the community bowl, and have a slice of pumpkin pie. All of these snacks can be part of a healthy lifestyle (and they should be, nothing is off limits with a healthy life), as long as we practice moderation. The problem comes when we can’t stop at one piece, one slice, one drink etc. Again: one day won’t ruin you. However, if you decide to indulge, keep it to one day. Multiple days of going over calories and macros will add up come January.

One of the best tips that I can give you to deal with the Holidays is to keep your routine. Maybe lighten up your earlier meals a bit (one egg and two egg whites instead of three whole eggs or 1/3 cup oatmeal instead of 1/2 cup, etc), but mostly just stick to what you know. If you decide to starve yourself all day in hopes of “saving up” for a big meal or party, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to go way overboard because you’re, you guessed it, starving. It’s much better to go into a big food situation satisfied and blood sugar on track, than ravenous and cranky. Except for your occasional all out day (plan that one in advance, make sure that’s the day you want), keep tracking your food. You’ll be surprised what you can eat, while still staying within your goal ranges.

The Alcohol

Even more dangerous to a healthy lifestyle than party food, is alcohol. Not because alcohol can’t be in a healthy life (moderationnn), but because the calories in alcohol don’t fill you up, are devoid of any nutrients, and can cause you to eat foods you usually wouldn’t after you indulge. One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories (as compared to 1g/4cals for carbs/protein and 1g/9cals for fats), but contains no nutritional value. To track alcohol itself in a food tracker, either take from your carbs (alcohol cals divided by 4) or fats (alcohol cals divided by 9), depending on which works best for your preferences. The other tricky part about is alcohol is, unless you’re sticking to beer and wine, the alcohol is usually mixed with something to make it more appetizing. Those mixers add sugar and calories, making that 140 calorie shot of vodka into a 350 calorie vodka cranberry. The lowest calorie mixers include soda water/seltzer, diet soda, and fresh fruit juice. I would say to tweak your drink order itself if 1) you know you’ll be indulging a lot tonight or 2) you know you have a lot of alcohol based events coming up. Otherwise, enjoy what you enjoy (and fully enjoy it) and move on.

As well, be sure to keep your stomach full before a night of drinking. You need to make sure your body is able to metabolize the alcohol, and slowly enough (due to food) so it’s not too much too fast. Another issue with drinking is the after drinks snacking. I don’t know about you, but pizza after happy hour is my jam, even if I planned on eating a healthier snack when I get home. Try to keep yourself full and happy before drinking, so hopefully you don’t feel the need to get snackage on the way home. Have some satisfying, yet healthy, snacks waiting for you when you get home too, and hide the not so good for us snacks. The easier it is to access, the more likely you are to eat it.

What do we do?

Halloween is known for it’s candy obviously, and Thanksgiving has the feast to end all feasts, and Christmas is a time of overindulgence with a rich family meal on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and they are only a month apart (if you celebrate Hanukkah, as I do along with Christmas, it is celebrated by frying foods in oil, not any better health wise). If we do nothing, and just overindulge until the cows come home, January is going to be a rude awakening. The biggest thing to remember: consistency is key. Even with your parties and events and meals, stay on your normal workout routine and nutrition. Do not try to “make up” for the extra calories with less food or excessive exercise. That won’t do anything but make you miserable when you aren’t partying. This season is all about fun and enjoyment, so don’t let you fitness goals stop you from enjoying your life. Health is an all around state of mental and physical well being, so being obsessive over calories during the holidays impedes on the mental health aspect. Take a deep breath, plan out the next few months, and continue to smash your goals. Holiday goal: maintain your routine and enjoy the season.

Progress

I Gained 5 Pounds in ONE Day?

Have you ever hopped on the scale and felt a pang of panic, seeing a number much higher than you were expecting? I know what you’re thinking, even yesterday that number was lower, how did I gain five pounds in a day? Easy, you didn’t.

According to the scale, you’re up five pounds. Technically that number is true, accurately depicting how much your body weighs at that particular time. First things first: you did NOT gain five pounds of fat in a day. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so, unless you ate 17,500 calories over your maintenance amount yesterday, those five pounds are not fat. However, there are so many reasons why the number you see is an inaccurate representation of your body. If those five pounds aren’t fat, what are they?

Think back to yesterday, what did you eat? Chances are you ate something out of the ordinary for your routine, including foods high in sodium or sugar. Both sodium and sugar are inflammatories, meaning they cause inflammation and water retention in the body. Alcohol is also highly inflammatory, and is usually worsened by being mixed with high sugar juices and sodas. When you consume inflammatory foods, your body responds by holding water in your tissues. The same process occurs when you do not consume enough water, your body holds water in tissues to keep as much water in your system as it can. This water retention can cause you to feel bloated and puffy, and it can cause a jump on the scale. If you’re a lady, I know you know this struggle. Your monthly dues cause tons of water retention in your body (along with all the other fun symptoms were used to), leading to that common symptom of bloating. Luckily, no matter the cause, this water retention should decrease when you consume extra water. Once your body gets the water it craves, the water being held in the tissues is released, bringing your body back to it’s normal levels.

Maybe you ate normally yesterday, but think back to what time you weighed yourself yesterday? Did you weigh yourself yesterday right when you wake up, but today after breakfast? If that is the case, of course you’re going to weigh more today. Yesterday, you had nothing in your system, with that being your true weight. Today, you have breakfast in you, starting to digest and fuel your body for the day. This food in your body will cause an increase in weight, even if you ate something “light.” It is completely normal for your weight to fluctuate by 3-5lbs throughout the day, no matter what you’ve eaten.

No matter what the circumstances, just breathe. You did not gain five pounds of fat in one single day. Stress can also cause water retention and (temporary) weight gain, so do not stress over this weight. Be sure to drink more water than usual, and weigh yourself right when you wake up the next day. Your weight should be back to normal. If your weight is gradually increasing, no matter the time of day or what you ate, and you don’t want it to, then you may need to adjust the amount that you are eating in a day, or your activity level. As well, I choose to weigh myself and my clients once a month. If you’d like to weigh yourself daily, be sure to do it at the same time every day. I recommend right when you wake up, as this is the most accurate representation of your body.

The scale is a good way to track progress, but it can also be a huge cause of stress. If the scale is doing you more harm than good, then I suggest you get rid of it. If a number is tripping you up that much, I recommend finding other ways to track progress. Keep track of the weights you’ve used to complete exercises, or use clothing or photos as markers of progress. The scale is not the only way to determine progress, and it definitely shouldn’t be the source of your happiness.

Nutrition, Progress

The Foundations of Fitness: Part Two

Nutrition

Everyone loves food. However, when it comes to food in regards to health and weight loss, we all differ. Everyone thinks that their fad diet is superior to everyone else’s. Nutrition isn’t as complicated and confusing as everyone tries to make it out to be. We’re just going to scratch the surface and go into the basics here today. All of our food, no matter what it is, are a combination of macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals in foods, which are just as important, but make sure you’re taking a quality multivitamin and eating some veggies and you should be good there. Now the macros. There are three main macronutrients that we need to be concerned with: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Both fats and carbs have been demonized by the media over the years, but no one macronutrient is better than another. Weight loss is simple, but true fat loss gets more complicated, and all macros help to aid in fat loss.

Protein

Above is a high protein snack or post workout meal that can also help satisfy sweet cravings: one cup plain Greek yogurt, one scoop chocolate protein powder, one serving (32g) of Life cereal, and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds. 46g carbs, 2g fat, 47g protein.

Protein, and the amino acids that make up protein, are the building blocks of muscle. One gram of protein yields 4 calories. Protein sources can be complete or incomplete, depending on the amino acids they are comprised of. Essential amino acids are ones that need to be consumed, since the body does not create them, and non essential amino acids are ones that the body naturally produces. Complete protein sources are ones that contain all essential amino acids, and can be found in meats, fish, dairy, eggs, and soy. Incomplete sources contain a few of the essential amino acids but need to be combined to create one complete source. Incomplete proteins tend to be plant based, and include foods such as peanut butter, rice and beans, and lentils. Some plant based complete proteins would be combining peanut butter and bread or rice and black beans.

Though all macros are important, protein is especially crucial when it comes to fat loss. As we enter into a calorie deficit, which means we’re eating below our maintenance calories (we’ll go into this more in a future post), we need to make sure our body is burning fat and not muscle. Eating sufficient protein, which is more than you needed when you aren’t in a deficit, helps to ensure that your body spares your muscle stores for energy and uses fats and glucose (carbs/sugar) to supply energy. After a workout, if consumed within about an hour, protein helps to repair and rebuild the muscle that was damaged during resistance training.

Carbohydrates

Above is a higher carb meal that still has protein in it. 2.5oz chickpea pasta (measured raw), one cup sautéed mushrooms, one cup broccoli, 1/2 cup green peas, 1/2 cup portobello and wine Publix pasta sauce, and one tablespoon nutritional yeast. 67g carb, 7g fat, and 33g protein.

Carbs are simply enough, they are body’s main source of energy. One gram of carbs yields 4 calories, just like protein. And just like protein, there are multiple different sources of carbs. The easiest way to distinguish carbs is how easily and quickly they’re digested. Simple carbohydrates are easy to digest, and digest quickly, causing a quick burst of energy, but also causing an equally quick decrease in energy, aka a sugar crash. Simple carbs include foods such as sugars and refined grains, such as white bread, rice, and pasta.

Complex carbohydrates are more difficult to digest, allowing for a slower release of energy into the body that lasts longer. Complex carbs include vegetables, sweet potato, and whole grains. Complex carbs also tend to be higher in fiber, which is the indigestible portion of whole grains and fibrous veggies, and helps to slow down the absorption of carbs. Since fiber slows digestion, foods high in fiber help you feel fuller for longer, helping keep appetite in check, helping to keep overall calories. Even though complex carbs have more fiber and nutrients than simple carbs, neither carb is bad, as they have the same calories, as long as there is balance.

Fats

Above is a higher fat breakfast or snack of one slice of Italian bread, one whole avocado, and one tablespoon chia seeds. (24g carbs, 23g fats, 7g protein)

“Why would I eat fat if I’m trying to lose fat?” Fats are an essential part of any diet. One gram of fat yields 9 calories, so they also contribute to satiety, which is the feeling of being full and satisfied. However, some fats are better than others, just like carbs and protein sources. Polyunsaturated fats are the ones we want the majority of fats in our diet to be from and include fish, nuts, and plants, such as avocado. Fats are also essential to brain and eye health and function, as well as joint health. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are two fats we need to consume, since our body doesn’t naturally produce them, and they are vital to brain and eye health. They are found in foods such as fatty fish (salmon) and nuts, or in a quality fish oil or flax seed oil supplement. Other types of fat include monounsaturated and saturated (butter, coconut oil, any fat that is solid at room temperature) should be limited, since they contribute to high cholesterol. Though all fats shouldn’t be avoided, since they are part of a balanced diet, trans fats should be avoided, as they can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease and obesity. Also, beware of low fat foods. Foods, such as peanut butter or yogurt, that are advertised as low fat tend to be higher in sugar to make up the minuscule difference in fat. You’re better off indulging in some real fat than loading yourself up with additives.

There are many ways and styles of tracking nutrition. Some people do really well with the structure of a meal plan, that includes options of what to eat and when, while others do well with a more flexible approach, which involves keeping track of your macronutrient amounts in a set ratio. No matter how you go about tracking nutrition through your journey, the important thing is that you track. You’d be surprised how much you underestimate you’re eating, while overestimating the amount you’re burning.

If there’s anything we discussed that you would like more information on, feel free to reach out to me, either here through the site or facebook/instagram!